Lost and Hidden Treasures from Around the World

Where to find ancient undiscovered treasures!

Written by Carly Hallman

Anyone who has run around their backyard pretending to be Indiana Jones has probably dreamed of going on a real-life treasure hunt, complete with an old map, rusty chest, and hidden dangers. But that’s all fantasy, right? Someone who asks, “Where can I find treasure in the real world?” can’t be sincere, can they? Alas, there are plenty of famous lost treasures of the ancient world, some of which have been recently found. Modern treasure-hunters don’t use whips and cool hats as much as knowledge of ancient languages and radar, but there are still plenty of lost treasures that can still be found hiding in the darkest crevices of caves, under the ocean, or in ancient temples. Here are some legendary lost treasure stories about missing historical artifacts or piles of gold!

Ancient Undiscovered Treasures

The longer the treasure is hidden, the less likely it is that it has at one point been discovered or been outed as a hoax. Sometimes, ancient missing treasures are stumbled upon by looters. In rare cases, such as in the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb, we got lucky. But there are still quite a few legendary treasures of the world from ancient times floating around out there. Even though it’s more likely that real treasure-hunters resemble your local college’s dean, a Chinese government official, or a Coptic expert rather than Indiana Jones, Lara Croft, or Nathan Drake, potential adventures still await the enterprising historian:

  • The Ark of the Covenant: Yes, it’s a real legend, and no, it’s never been found. It’s one of the most important missing religious artifacts ever and the source of arguably more obsession than the Holy Grail.
  • The Copper Scroll: This is an old treasure map made from copper found along with another treasure: the Dead Sea Scrolls. It lists 64 locations where one can find gold and silver hidden in and around Jerusalem.
  • The Emperor’s Seal: Fashioned from a historically important piece of jade, this seal was used by the emperor as a signature. It’s one of China’s most important artifacts before it disappeared.

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23 Lost and Hidden Treasures From Around the World Transcript

Treasure + Origin (And Symbols) Description
Ark of the Covenant, Origin: Mt. Sinai (possibly Egypt), Date lost: 6th century B.C., Legend Gold-plated chest built to house the Ten Commandments, believed to have been lost when the Babylonians sacked Jerusalem. Some believe it is now protected by a monk known as “the Guardian” in Ethiopia.
Menorah from the Second Temple, Origin: Jerusalem, Date lost: 191, Confirmed Lost in a fire at the Temple of Peace in Rome after it was stolen from the Second Temple in Jerusalem. If it survived the fire, it could have been brought to Carthage by the Vandals after the Sack of Rome in 455.
Heirloom Seal of the Realm, Origin: China, Date lost: circa 960, Confirmed Carved from the He Shi Bi, an infamous piece of jade. It was passed through dynasties until it mysteriously disappeared.
Kusanagi, Origin: Japan, Date lost: 1185, Legend One of the three Imperial Regalia of Japan. The government claims to possess it but has not permitted outside verification.
Crown Jewels of England, Origin: United Kingdom, Date lost: 1216, Legend King John is said to have lost the crown jewels in the rising waters of the Wash, a bay on the east coast of England, while traveling. The accident is reported to have occurred near the Sutton Bridge on the River Nene.
Montezuma’s Treasure, Origin: US and Mexico, Date lost: 1520, Legend Despite a great ceremony to welcome them, Spanish conquistadors ransacked the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan and murdered Montezuma. The city retaliated, driving the Spanish back and forcing them to dump all of their treasures into Lake Texcoco. One legend says that Aztec descendants later retrieved the treasure and hid it in southern Utah.
Blackbeard’s Treasure, Orgin: England, Date lost: 1718, Legend Before dying in battle against a British naval force, Blackbeard claimed to have hidden his enormous riches. His ship was discovered in 1996 with no trace of treasure.
Scepter of Dagobert, Origin: France, Date lost: 1795, Confirmed The oldest part of the French regalia was stored in the Basilica of St. Denis until it vanished, probably stolen. It was made of filigreed gold.
Oak Island Money Pit, Origin: Nova Scotia, Date begun: 1795, Legend Legends of buried treasure including Marie Antoinette’s jewels and Shakespeare manuscripts surround a circular depression on the island’s forest floor. Upon excavation, a series of deliberate timber barriers were discovered, as well as an encrypted stone stating that vast wealth lies below.
Treasure of Lima, Origin: Peru, Date lost: 1820, Legend Capt. William Thompson buried $208 million worth of gold, silver, and jewelry entrusted to him for transport from Peru to Mexico.
Confederate Gold, Origin: United States, Date lost: Circa 1865, Legend The imminent invasion of Union troops at Richmond, Virginia, compelled Confederates to quickly hide millions of dollars in gold and silver. The whereabouts remain a mystery.
Irish Crown Jewels, Origin: Ireland, Date lost: 1907, Confirmed Jeweled star and badge regalia stolen from Dublin Castle. They were stored in the office of Sir Arthur Vicars, who once woke up with them around his neck after a bout of drunkenness.
Florentine Diamond, Origin: India, Date lost: 1914, Confirmed Intricate and rare nine-sided 126-facet double rose cut diamond, weighing 137.27 carats. Stolen from Charles I of Austria while in exile by someone close to the Imperial Family.
Lost Fabergé Eggs, Origin: Russia, Date lost: Circa 1918, Confirmed Seven of the iconic jeweled enamel eggs are missing after the House of Fabergé was ransacked by the Bolsheviks.
Royal Casket, Origin: Poland, Date lost: 1939, Confirmed Memorial casket containing 73 precious relics of Polish royalty, hidden in a palace outbuilding. Plundered by Wehrmacht soldiers during World War II.
Peking Man, Origin: Beijing, China, Date lost: 1941-45, Confirmed Homo erectus fossil specimen that may have been lost en route by ship to the American Museum of Natural History
Amber Room, Origin: Prussia, Date lost: Circa 1945, Confirmed A 590-square-foot chamber with amber panels and gold leaf in the Catherine Palace, once the “Eighth Wonder of the World.” It was looted by Nazis. A mosaic piece was found in 1997 in Germany, in possession of a soldier who helped pack it up.
Nazi Gold Train, Origin: Germany, Date lost: 1945, Legend Train laden with 300 tons of gold and treasures, hidden in a secret system of tunnels under the Owl Mountains near the Polish city of Walbrzych
Honjō Masamune, Origin: Japan, Date lost: 1945, Confirmed Believed to be one of the finest Japanese swords ever made by legendary swordsmith Masamune, it was lost when the Allies demanded that Japanese noble families turn over their collection of swords.
Patiala Necklace, Origin: Patiala (India), Date lost: Circa 1948, Confirmed This 2,930-diamond necklace created for the maharaja of Patiala vanished from the royal treasury in 1948, then reappeared at an auction in 1982 for $3.16 million. Part of the necklace resurfaced again at a thrift shop in 1998, with many large jewels missing.
Tucker’s Cross, Origin: Spain, Date lost: 1975, Confirmed Emerald-studded gold cross found in a shipwreck. It was housed in a museum in Bermuda until it was stolen and replaced with a replica.
Golden Owl, Origin: France, Date lost: 1993, Confirmed Communications expert Régis Hauser hid a gold owl statuette somewhere in France after spending 450 hours designing riddles with clues for a treasure hunt book titled, “On the Trail of the Golden Owl.”
Fenn Treasure, Origin: United States, Date lost: 2010, Confirmed Retired Air Force pilot Forrest Fenn hid a chest of treasure somewhere in the Rocky Mountains after he was diagnosed with cancer. He survived and continues to provide clues. Several people have died while searching.

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Underwater and Real Pirate Treasures

If you like diving more than you enjoy linguistics and archaeology, perhaps you’d rather find a real treasure chest in one of the undiscovered sunken treasure ships not found for generations.

  • Blackbeard’s Treasure: Supposedly, the infamous (and real) pirate stashed some gold in his travels. After finding his ship, though, historians were disappointed. Perhaps it’s somewhere else.
  • The Treasure of Lima: Yes, it’s actual buried treasure on a real treasure island, stolen by a British trader on his way back from Peru.
  • The Crown Jewels of England: King John (the Magna Carta King) lost his treasures in 1215 as rising tides took away his luggage.

Lost Treasures in the United States and Nearby

Are there any real treasure maps that could lead to your backyard? The plot of Goonies isn’t likely to happen, but there are quite a few supposed lost treasures never found in America.

  • Forrest Fenn’s Treasure: A real-life scavenger hunt of unfound treasure, this poetic puzzle, written by an art dealer, is worthy of a novelization.
  • Montezuma’s Treasure: As Cortes hunted down the last of the Aztec Empire’s nobility, the king forced his slaves to carry off his gold from Mexico into the United States.
  • Oak Island Money Pit: Nova Scotia is home to a supposed incredible treasure. It has already has been drilled for twice and has brought several people to their graves.

But remember this: True treasures aren’t always gold or the result of a great treasure hunt through caves and secret temples. Often, it’s the temples themselves or the historic items found along the way, hints of greater knowledge hidden in lost historical artifacts. See our list of lost treasures, and plan to find your own treasures at your local museum or library today!


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